The New Celibacy:
A Journey to Love, Intimacy, and Good Health in a New Age
New York: McGraw-Hill, 1989 (1st ed. 1980)
Celibacy Goes Mainstream
The Old Celibacy
Celibacy and Love: Does abstinence make the heart grow fonder?
The Celibate Man
The Celibate Woman
Celibacy in Marriage: Chastity begins at home
Celibacy and the Growth of Consciousness
Attitudes for Celibacy: Letting go of sex
Celibacy Goes Mainstream
Celibacy originally meant the state of not being married. But those were the days when being single and not having sex were generally synonymous. I use the term the new celibacy in a broader sense, to define a psychophysical state, without reference to marital status or any other sociological factors. . . .
So what is this psychophysical state? First of all, it is a sexual state. While it's true that it is experienced as not having sex, celibacy is not 'asexuality.' It does not mean not having sexual feelings, although the patterns of sexual response may change profoundly. In this way, perhaps we can best think about celibacy as the rest state of sexuality, where the sexual response becomes more diffuse, expanding in many directions beyond a simple genital response. . . .
[U]nder some circumstances, celibacy can be a repression of sexuality, leading to a diminished response to life and personal growth. But generally, if it is chosen for positive reasons, it can have quite the opposite effect, whether such effects are social or spiritual or health-related. . . .
According to a 1988 annual 'sex survey,' reported in Canada's Maclean's Magazine, between 1987 and 1988 there was a 20 percent decrease in the 'somewhat active' category, a 50 percent increase in those having less frequent sex, and a 25 percent increase in those giving up sex entirely. And although fear of AIDS increased behavioral changes in sex for 40 percent of the respondents, it still did not account for all changes in all categories. . . .
According to a longitudinal study on sexual attitudes conducted by research psychologist Srully Blotnick:
- The number of women opting for celibacy has quadrupled in the past ten years, up from 2 to 3 percent to a current figure of about 10 percent.
- Far fewer women would opt to have casual sex (sex with someone they don't love) in the mid-1980s (28 percent) than would have had casual sex in the 1960s (43 percent) or the 1970s (37 percent).
- In 1980, it was estimated that less than one half of 1 percent of men were celibate. By 1986, that number increased eight-fold to 4 percent. Today it may be as high as 8 percent among heterosexual men and around 10 percent among homosexual men.
- Interest in casual sex among all males similarly decreased by one-third in a decade, from 74 percent in the 1970s to 48 percent in the mid-1980s. . . .
Even among monogamous married couples who need not be fearful of disease, there is a significant decrease in sexual activity. Accoording to a recent Redbook survey, over 40 percent of married women have sex once a week or less compared with a similar survey taken in 1974 when the figure was 28 percent. . . .
In a demographically weighted study of 1550 respondents, the D'Arcy, Masius, Benton, and Bowles ad agency found that when the respondents were asked what gives them a 'great deal of pleasure and satisfaction,' 68 percent choose TV, 61 percent friends, 59 percent helping others, 58 percent vacations, 56 percent hobbies, 55 percent reading. Sex came in at 42 percent, nearly tied with food at 41 percent. The study concluded that today, more people find more pleasure in watching TV, helping others, reading, and in pursuing their various hobbies than in having sex. . . .
In 1987, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that some 12 million people each year are infected with STDs, up 33 percent or four million since 1980. In addition, some 20 million individuals are said to be infected with genital herpes, and an estimated six million with chlamydia, an infectious, debilitating yeast condition. But among the many identifiable sexually transmitted diseases, none is more frightening or more devastating than AIDS.
As of early 1988, according to the CDC, there were over 50,000 adults diagnosed with AIDS in the United States. Another 1.5 million Americans may have the human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV), which could eventually manifest as AIDS. . . .
In a 'Celibacy Study' conducted by none other than Penthouse magazine, it was concluded that celibacy is 'taking on a new respectability':Less than half the men and fewer than 40 percent of the women said they were celibate because of fear of disease. And they found benefits in being celibate, particularly emotional and spiritual ones. Seventy-four percent of the women and 68 percent of the men felt that their views of the opposite sex were broadened by the experience. And more than half concluded that being celibate was a healthy thing to do.. . . As celibacy makes inroads into our social lives, it is also becoming part of our psychological makeup. In 1980, we identified a trend toward less sex as 'lack of interest.' Called 'inhibited sexual desire,' this was considered the number-one patient complaint in the mental health field. In one study of married couples reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, one-third of the couples said they had sex two or three times a month or less; in another study, reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry, one-third of the married men and women were sexually abstinent on the average for two months at a time and many for three months and longer.
Noting a growing national trend among both single and married people toward less sex, members of the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists reported that as many as half their patients considered the lack of sexual desire their primary reason for seeking counseling. . . . [Some] sex therapists tend to view this reduced sex interest as pathological. . . . [Other professionals noted] that neither men nor women either needed or wanted sex all that much. Under the social pressure to be more sexual, many had denied their real desires to move toward less sexual activity, but they regarded their emerging celibate status in a very positive way. . . .
The focus on sex means that we are continuously bombarded with all kinds of mirages of fulfillment. This leads to what sex researchers John Gagnon and William Simon call in their book Sexual Conduct, 'an over-enriched conception of sexual behavior.' People end up thinking they are more sexual than they really are. And they feel they should live up to a false picture of sexuality that has been created as a standard.
The role of sex has also become further distorted by its overemphasis in the field of psychotherapy. A large number of therapists tend to encourage patients to dwell on sex at the expense of other, perhaps more pressing, problems. . . . One result of this narrowing vision is that the majority of people seeking professional help may conclude that their current state of unhappiness is caused by one sexual hang-up or another. Since sex is often used to relieve frustration that has occurred in another domain, it is not surprising that many men and women come to view all kinds of frustration as sexual. . . .
Besides its mental health value, we are also led to believe that sex is 'good' for us in the same way that healthy foods, exercise, meditation, and other things have been found to raise the quality and longevity of life. . . . [T]he deceptive impression has been created that one must be sexually active to remain healthy. The 'use-it-or-lose-it' school of sexologists exploits fears of growing old to the fullest by making it seem as if sexual performance were the true test of youth and aliveness. (Actually, many cultures, particularly Eastern cultures . . . believe that sex can have a weakening effect on the physical and mental abilities of people of all ages.) . . .
It has been found that people don't need or even want sex as much as they think they do. According to the research findings of Gagnon and Simon, 'It is demonstrable that sexual activity is in fact not a very powerful drive and the word "drive" itself may be a misnomer.' . . . They maintain that sexuality is actually that particular aspect of human development where the triumph of the 'sociocultural over the biological level is most complete.' . . .
[A]s our ideas and attitudes toward sex evolve, so do our physiological responses. . . . [S]ex has been demonstrated to be less interesting to people who are more fully developed in all other areas. . . . Dr. Abraham Maslow found that sex was not a preoccupation within the self-actualized groups . . . [He] reported that a self-actualizing person could be sexually abstinent with no harmful effects because he or she would be comfortable with the experience and not feel it as a deprivation. . . .
All sexual activity follows a mental score, a fantasy of Events to Take Place. And for an event to be sexual, human beings require far more than the physical acts. (Just ask anyone who has ever been raped.) It is the mental appreciation and its emotional orchestration that makes an event sexual. Breast and genital examinations and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation generally take place without sexual arousal, but in the right frame of mind, these acts become highly sexual. The mind makes a continuum, a 'story,' out of a succession of physical moments. . . .
The fact that sex is predominantly a mental experience through which the body is manipulated means that it is pointless to argue that, as a sexual being, one is at the mercy of one's physiological responses entirely. 'The urge to merge' sexually is a thought before it is an action. So in general people decide when it is appropriate to be sexual. In this regard, sex is not only a mental activity, it is also a voluntary activity. . . .
Sometimes we forget that being sexual is a choice. If we are feeling sexy, we may think we have to 'do something' about it; otherwise, we'll be repressing an uncontrollable physical urge that will lead to frustration and anxiety. Actually, there is no real need to be sexual so far as human physiology is concerned. If one is, fine; if one is not, fine. The desire will most likely subside. Unlike hunger, thirst, and the craving for intimacy -- which are the real needs -- physical sexual gratification is far less necessary than imagined. . . .
[T]he reason most of us decide in favor of being sexual as much as possible is because we've been taught that sex is the road to personal fulfillment. This is one of the most destructive myths about sex -- that there is such a thing as permanent fulfillment on the sexual level.
No matter how great an orgasm one has or how great an orgasm one's partner has, sex does not bring fulfillment. And if something more deep and permanent is desired in the expression of love and one does not even experience it, one may feel unfulfilled, even saddened by the sexual act. There is a clear psychological description of this feeling called 'postcoital tristesse' or 'sadness after sex.' . . . Many people, believing that sex is the only way to become fulfilled, spend years searching for lasting happiness in sexual encounters. Such is the loneliness of the sexual seeker who continues to search for personal liberation in a series of static encounters. In this fixed pattern of behavior, there is always a feeling of futility, of going nowhere. . . .
[S]ooner or later, no matter how much you love your partner, you are going to get bored once you run out of ways to progress in sexual expression. This may not happen in a week of lovemaking, but it can easily occur after five or ten years of marriage. At that point, a couple may start to question the validity of their relationship -- and whether they are really in love.
This is an all-too-common occurrence in marriage. And of course a great and tragic misunderstanding. For if the partners see sexual activity as the key to the entire relationship or even as a reflection of the quality of the relationship, they may convince themselves that the relationship is over, done for. In fact, they may have grown beyond the need for sex and the sexual level of relating for a time and it may indicate . . . the right moment to start to experience each other on an entirely new plane of union . . .
Artists, business people, scientists, writers -- anybody who creates, people who meditate, religious people, young children, and many others have all reported experiences of transcending that often take place in very ordinary circumstances. . . . These moments of transcendence may indeed occur during sex or they may not. But we do ourselves and our lovers a great disservice if we continue to seek the spiritual experience of unboundedness only in the sexual realm. Because we've been taught to look for the earth to move during sex, we might blindly focus all our spiritual hopes on this one limited channel of experience. And in so doing we eliminate more fruitful paths to obtaining the fulfillment we desire.
But once we become aware that what we are seeking through sex is something other than sex, we may decide to take attention off sex entirely, in order to explore whatever else is available. This shift in attention occurs naturally as one gains increased satisfaction in other experiences -- in the ability to love, in the development of creative expression, in the achievement of success in any activity. As one grows, one inevitably wants to experience the kind of profundity of expression enjoyed in all other parts of life. If the quality of sex doesn't measure up, sex begins to move out of the limelight.
This is a primary reason why people entertain celibacy as a possibility at some time in their lives -- because they want to experience and express something closer and more representative of their own nature than even sex. It can be thought of as the desire for something more eternal, more permanent. And when individuals start to desire this fuller kind of self-expression, everything they do has to be re-evaluated in light of these new desires.
Celibacy is a state of life known only to humans. The fact that one can be celibate if one so chooses is an indication of the growth of freedom. Natural life has evolved from the state of determined sexuality experienced by the lower animals to a state of potential sexuality wherein human beings are free to choose to be sexual or not.
This book is principally addressed to those for whom celibacy may be chosen as a positive life experience, although not necessarily for a lifetime. . . . [T]wo main categories of celibacy can and ought to be distinguished. One is celibacy freely chosen and the other is celibacy based on repression and fear of sex, what can be called 'celibacy by default.' . . .
[M]ost of our traditional knowledge about celibacy comes from that group of spiritual men and women who have made a total commitment to a celibate life for the sake of a higher goal, often religious in nature.
In certain religions and on some spiritual paths, a person may choose to be celibate for life in order to keep his or her attention on the most elevated levels of knowledge and experience in devotion to God. The purity and dignity of such a deep personal commitment to God found in the various traditions of religious celibacy often serve to inspire the society. . . .
Even Freud, who could never seem to leave a sexually repressed rock unturned, admitted that many life celibates may have grown beyond ordinary sexual needs and desires. He wrote: 'What they bring about in themselves in this way is a state of evenly suspended, steadfast, affectionate feeling, which has little external resemblance any more to the stormy agitations of genital love.' However, . . . not all celibacy in the name of religion produces such spiritually beneficial results. . . .
Life celibates are usually individuals who are physically, mentally, and socially self-sufficient and who have no real need of other people in order to be happy, even though they may be devoted to helping others. But there is another dimension of celibate living -- what could be called perhaps 'secular celibacy' -- that includes some aspects of religious celibate life and some aspects of everyday social life. . . .
The most important reason for becoming celibate by choice is that we recognize that we want to be. Just as one can decide to be sexual, one can decide to be celibate -- for a week or two, for a month, for a year, even for many years.
And how do you know if it might be a good time for you to try a little celibacy? Well, one way to know is when the desire for sex diminishes. If your attention is not on sex, it's easy to be celibate. If, on the other hand, you are always thinking about sex and full of sexual fantasies, it might not be the right time to be celibate. . . .
If it is more comfortable not to be sexual than to be sexual, then it is a natural kind of celibacy. On the mental level, if one's attention is not on sex, that too is indicative of a natural time of celibacy. Sexual fantasies tend to drop off as one becomes more celibate, as one's attention moves to other sources of enjoyment in life. If, however, one is physically celibate yet always thinking about sex and full of sexual fantasies, celibacy may not feel natural. . . .
[C]elibate people . . . report that it becomes increasingly easier to be celibate the longer one remains celibate. On the other hand, there is no evidence to suggest that the ability to have sex is ever lost through celibacy. (In fact, short periods of celibacy may be the best cure for sexual problems such as impotence.) What may be lost is the desire for sex. As one becomes celibate, one may first lose not one's sexual desires but the desire for sexual desire. In this culture, the possibility of losing the desire to have sex may be thought of as akin to quiet death. But nature is much better-natured than that; if the desire to have sex goes, celibate people say, it is because the desire for other, even more important experiences has replaced it.
For some people, becoming celibate means being in control of their lives. A realization may have come that sex is not as enjoyable as they would like, yet they drifted along in sexual activity anyway. . . . If sex has become unfulfilling but one continues to participate, it takes on a character of unnaturalness. That means that sex has become an inappropriate means of expression of the personality at that time. If people are expressing something other than what they are or less than what they are at any given moment, they will feel frustrated, less open, less full, diminished, cut off from their feelings.
The fuller levels of feeling, the deep levels of tenderness and intimacy, can easily be lost in sex because sexual activity is so dominating and tends to hold the focus of attention when people are making love. You may yearn to express these deeper parts to your lover but may end up expressing only the sexual. It is then that an individual or a couple may decide in favor of celibacy. It may not be a long period of celibacy -- perhaps only a week or two -- but it can be just what is needed at the time. . . .
Celibacy is a way of breaking boundaries, old patterns of behavior that exist between the mind and body, between the self and others. It enables one to be free of sexuality in order to evaluate and experience joys of life without sex. . . .
The Old Celibacy
In the life of the religious, celibacy has long been a spiritual discipline, an exercise for the devotee to advance in spiritual growth. It has been suggested that celibacy offers a way for the religious individual to have his or her attention most purely absorbed in the commitment to seeking and experiencing God. . . .
Of all the world religions past and present, celibacy is most widely practiced in the Eastern religions, particularly in Hinduism. Just as one does not have to be a priest to lead a religious life within Hinduism, one does not have to be a priest to be celibate. The male and female celibate devotees, whether priests or not, are the sadhus -- the 'holy ones.'
In the 5000-year-old Hindu tradition, the ideal spiritual life consists of four stages, representing four developmental behavioral stages of ideal human growth. One begins with the brahmacharya (celibate) life of the young student. Around age ten, the brahmacharin embarks upon a rigorous training in knowledge in which his celibate status serves as the basis for growing consciousness. He studies, usually with a master, while maintaining celibacy for the next twelve years. This training is followed by a second stage, garhasthya -- the active daily life of marriage and family. Not all marry at this time; some continue as monks and remain celibate for their entire lives, but most marry and raise families. Both paths -- that of the celibate and of the householder -- are equally respected in Hinduism.
Of those who have married, some will continue to uphold the spiritual commitment to ideal life and choose to leave active life to become religious recluses during the third stage, vanaprastha. Some married couples go together to the forest or mountains, but as celibates, for this third stage is a return to celibate life. It is a time to be free of worldly possessions and family duties and continues into the last stage, sanyasa, which requires a life completely alone, the renunciation of all family and friends as well as all material things. The sanyasin enjoys silence through meditation and is committed to radiating the purity of his or her highly developed consciousness throughout the universe. . . .
In the Eastern traditions, celibacy represents a discipline to gain enlightenment, whereby all the physical, mental, and emotional energy of the body, mind, and senses is directed toward progressively higher levels of evolution. . . .
In general, sex in the East represents the spending of energy, and celibacy its conservation. Excessive sexual interest is not considered a sin but rather a weakness, an unnecessary waste of mental and physical energy, whereas celibacy represents mental and physical strength through the conserving of energy. . . . But one has to be sexually ready to be celibate. . . .
Celibacy and the Growth of Consciousness
. . . Becoming celibate seems to occur spontaneously, like other natural events -- in keeping with particular social, emotional, and spiritual needs and desires and with a corresponding minimizing of sexual urgency. This description of the celibate experience is at the heart of almost every discussion one has with people practicing celibacy.
If the possibility of celibacy is natural for some people at certain times, then there must be some aspect of human development which can enable this experience to come about naturally.
Celibacy outside religious life is very new to our society. Yet it seems to be emerging now, in an age of increasing emphasis on self-development, expansion of inner boundaries, wholeness of life, strengthening the society from within. The focus is more and more on new ways of relating to each other, new modes of interpersonal expression that take people beyond the ordinary experiences of daily routine. As personal goals change in line with the evolution of inner lives, sexuality is changing as well. Dr. June Singer has written: 'Evolutionary consciousness heralds the new age. . . . We are aware of how much we can control our sexuality and of the ramifications of all the ways in which we do control it.' And, she continues: 'The new era we are entering will require a shift from the exclusively personal viewpoint to one that includes the transpersonal, a shift from an egocentric position toward a universal orientation. . . .'
. . . There is no doubt that such a shift is in keeping with the growth of consciousness. As Herbert Richardson has proposed, 'Even to imagine the possibility that sexual desire can be renounced involves the presence of a new kind of consciousness.'
In light of this new awareness, it is only natural that all aspects of sexuality be evaluated -- not just how you are having sex or with whom but whether you really want to or not, whether having sex is in keeping at any given time with all other developments going on in your life.
There are those who believe that having sex is opposed to the growth of consciousness, at least sex with orgasm. Because when you have an orgasm, you actually lose consciousness for a moment. The other times loss of consciousness occurs are during sleep, during illness (i.e., when you faint or are in a coma), or when you are overly intoxicated from some drug such as alcohol. Now, it is true that loss of consciousness during sex usually occurs for only seconds at most. But according to neurologist Richard Mayeux, reporting in the New England Journal of Medicine, it has been found that some people 'experience a profound amnesia and disorientation for several hours after having sexual intercourse.'
In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, notes Richardson, sex was considered sinful for just this reason: 'Because it involved the temporary suspension of man's reason and voluntary freedom . . . at least in the moment of orgasm.'
Sex therapists today often advise their clients to allow themselves to lose consciousness during sex in order to have a 'full' experience of it, in order to get them to stop thinking and analyzing during sex. As William Masters writes, 'To a degree your own pleasure is dulled because you are not lost in the experience -- you're observing. . . .'
So losing consciousness during lovemaking or being 'lost' in the experience is said to be beneficially pleasurable for some people. But for those who are fully 'there,' who can maintain full alertness, observing is a very natural part of all experience -- not something to avoid but something that increases enjoyment. And actually, one is really only fully appreciative of something if one is not lost in it. By remaining within oneself, centered, aware, not overwhelmed by the experience, the chances are that the experience will be much more full, more clearly perceived, felt, understood, and enjoyed. This happens because as humans we have the unique capability of experiencing something and simultaneously being aware that we are experiencing it. So when we're having a good time, we know we're having a good time. But if we are doing something that ought to be pleasurable (from past experience) and isn't, we're aware that we're not having a god time. And indeed such a situation occurs when there has been a change in consciousness and explains why desires, including sexual ones, change throughout one's life. . . .
As sensory pleasure becomes more refined, higher states of consciousness are experienced. So as higher human pleasures come to replace lower ones, intellectual and emotional functions may minimize or inhibit sexual response.
Remembering that as one develops, sex becomes more complex and more mental, it is not surprising that this growth of consciousness could lead to another option -- one of no sex, or celibacy -- if sex is replaced by other mental, emotional, or spiritual pleasures. Although in Western culture it is much less clear how celibacy fits into and advances psychosexual growth than in the East, this idea is nonetheless found in many of the developmental theories of Western psychology -- where sexuality is understood as 'one step along the way to developing the capacity to love.'
The eminent philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin describes the growth of human life as a series of steps in which a person integrates his self-love, his social life, and his orientation to God or spiritual life. Teilhard labels these steps of growth: affectionization, sensitization, and universalization. . . .
According to Maslow's research, the highest human need is 'self-actualization' or the need to fulfill one's human potential. The higher needs are the more integrated, the more human responses which incorporate more of a person's capacities. In Maslow's hierarchy of needs, self-actualization comes after physiological and safety needs and after the needs for affection, achievement, and esteem. When we choose, Maslow says, we choose the higher need over the lower one, if we've been experiencing both.
In this 'needs' progression, Maslow found that genital abstinence or celibacy is not in any way psychologically harmful in the most integrated, most self-actualized people functioning at the highest levels of human expression. What he found was that one's intellectual and emotional understanding and attitude toward celibacy is what makes it healthy or not. . . .
Throughout history, a universal idea has prevailed that sexual energy for nonprocreative purposes can either be 'used up' in sexual activity or 'contained' for upholding the development of the body and the mind. This sex energy was seen as the fuel for opening these channels of experience, not only in the East but in the alchemy of the Europeans during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. . . .
Even today there are people everywhere who maintain that physical orgasm has a draining effect on both mind and body that results in an overall energy loss in the system. To prevent this loss, many athletes, actors, musicians, and other performers forego sex before the game, the show, the concert. . . .
In the East, the expansion of consciousness and the transformation of sexual energy have been generally observed to be highly correlated events. . . . In this view, sexual energy has two purposes: one is procreation and the other is its usefulness in the transformation of consciousness -- from a near-animal state to a universal consciousness of God; from 'unconscious' to 'all-conscious.' . . .
[I]f one doesn't discharge sexual energy in orgasm, it becomes converted into other levels of energy. The idea is that the cells are revitalized by a high frequency of energy generated throughout the body, keeping one vibrant by maintaining a vitality of body and mind.
As a form of self-actualization of the body that is integrated with mental powers, whether achieved with the help of celibacy or not, this higher integration of mind-body functioning enables one to establish spirituality as a physical reality. The 'magic' powers attained by various people throughout history were also said to be related to the physical manifestation of this high psychic energy. . . .
For a long time, Freud's theory identifying creativity as sublimated sexuality made creativity seem like a kind of second-class sexuality -- valid, but not The Real Thing. But with the broader picture coming from Eastern sources as well as Jung, Maslow, and others, it is clear that the transformation of sexual energy into creative experience is a spontaneous consequence of human evolution and the development of consciousness and not a negative repression of an equally natural function -- sex. Neither creativity nor sexuality is more 'real' -- both represent human nature at different levels of consciousness. And these aspects of development can only be meaningfully experienced if they occur naturally. . . .
[T]here are some individuals for whom sex holds no fascination, presumably because they are experiencing levels of pleasure higher than the sexual. This comes about because apparently, as consciousness rises, one doesn't miss sex. There is a calmness, a clarity of understanding, certainly not an hysterical rejection. And as consciousness develops, giving up sexual activity is easy because other experiences are providing more enjoyment than sex. . .
[I]t is at these higher levels of consciousness that the desire for sexual activity is said to 'fall away like ripe fruit from a tree.' . . . And the conserved sexual energy is put to work in other ways, contributing, it is thought, to a strong and vital physiology that supports and maintains the permanent experience of higher levels of consciousness. Consequently, those who have achieved a permanent state of pleasure or fulfillment are said to radiate a kind of energy of love which is constant, unbounded, brilliant, and truly universal. . . .
Attitudes for Celibacy: Letting go of sex
. . . There are really no instructions necessary for becoming celibate, [for] celibacy is primarily a mental response. We can choose to be celibate, as we can choose to be sexual -- if we are consciously able to choose at all. To be celibate as opposed to frustrated or martyred, one must make a conscious choice for a good reason -- on behalf of one's own personal growth. And once we have chosen to be celibate for a time, the same principle applies to remaining celibate. . . .
Thus celibacy is not to be thought of as mere abstinence from sex, for that is what we all do most of the time anyway (at least most of us do). But it is more accurately understood as a conscious choice made on behalf of one's greater personal gain. . . .
What we think determines what we do -- what we have thought determines what we have done. So if you are going to be celibate, you have to instruct the mind to take a mental attitude of celibacy. And, in so doing, you would want to avoid the distraction of sexualized thought. . . .
[Y]ou can be affectionate and loving even when celibate, as long as you don't encourage sexual desire. The key factor for a comfortable mental outlook on celibacy seems to be to keep it simple -- and not to try and complicate the issue with behavioral analysis and rules. Celibacy is actually a lot less complicated than sexual activity -- it involves doing nothing. So the best mental approach may be not to try at all -- not to try to be sexual or try to be celibate. Just see what happens, keeping in mind what you want for yourself. . . .
[C]elibacy is, of course, much easier to maintain when the senses are not bombarded by stimulants. Says Haich: '[There are] those people who do not leave their glands in peace, but rouse them with highly spiced food, stimulant drinks, erotic reading matter, films, and other such excitants. This only overtaxes the glands and weakens them prematurely.'
In the East, advocates of celibacy have long recommended the avoidance of spicy foods such a garlic, onions, peppers, paprika, and the like. And, according to the Kama Sutra, eating alkaline foods will render continence easier.
In the West, Dr. William A. Alcott, a noted champion of healthy living in the early nineteenth century, observed that sexual desire could be substantially decreased by the elimination of liquor, smoking, coffee, tea, condiments, sugar, lard, and spicy foods. . . . Similarly, other sexual energy 'savers' have outlined programs for celibate living that included going without tobacco and meat.
Foods generally regarded as aphrodisiacs would, of course, be avoided. Seafood has been most highly praised along these lines and would, therefore, be eaten with due respect. Snails are said to contain a sugar found in male seminal fluid and are thus thought to be highly 'sexy.'
Besides watching what one eats, advocates of celibacy have also advised increased participation in active sports, physical work, and specific exercises used to direct excess energy and the flow of blood into all parts of the body. . . .
A surprisingly large number of people wonder if masturbation is 'permitted' if one is celibate. Since being celibate (whether for a day, a week, a year, or a lifetime) means refraining from sexual activity and since many books on sex have given masturbation the blue ribbon for most terrific orgasms, it is clear that if you want to indulge in celibacy, you don't masturbate. . . .
It is . . . useful to remind oneself that being celibate is an alternate way to love, even to make love. One can learn to touch nonpossessively, without a future goal -- and to make love nonsexually, unmotivated by the need for sexual gratification. Being aware of one's sexuality and thinking about it as a passive state rather than an active one helps place the emphasis on a generalized feeling of love and well-being rather than on a localized response. . . .
The best study to date to test the value of celibacy for promoting good health was an analysis of the mortality rates and causes of death among Catholic priests between 1965 and 1977. Oddly enough, the study was looking for a possible link between celibacy and prostate cancer. However, to their surprise, the researchers found a 30 percent lower mortality rate from prostate and all forms of cancer among the clerics than among the general population and a 15 percent lower death rate in general. . . .
However it is incurred, physical and emotional stress reduces the ability of the immune system to maintain balance and thereby fight off disease. Conservation of energy is based on the principle of homeostasis -- the law of balance -- which operates throughout nature in such a way that whatever enemy comes along can be dealt with most efficiently. From this angle, it is best to have an immune system which conserves energy and which maintains itself in its least active state while no emergency is present. . . .
In most cases, celibacy represents an inward turning of one's attention away from a need to be fulfilled outside oneself. In this sense, it is rarely experienced as a single mode of behavior; it generally goes along with other inner-directed behavior. . . .
Whether celibacy is practiced under the guidance of a particular spiritual community or in the bedroom of a married couple, it is beginning to emerge in our society as a useful and positive vehicle to further personal growth for a number of people today. . . .
Sex and sexuality